Hope for Children was founded in 1994, the International Year of the Family, by an amazing man, Dr Bob Parsons OBE, who had a vision to help needy children and families in the UK and developing countries who fell through the gaps of support offered by the larger charities.
Supported by his wife Ann, the charity was launched with a bequest of £5,000 from Bob's friend, Jim Ward. Retiring as President of Hope for Children in December 2012, Bob continues to work tirelessly as a volunteer to raise funds and the profile of the charity. Sadly Ann passed away in August 2011 but her legacy will always remain at the heart of the organisation. Below is an extract from Bob's book of how the charity started:
How it all started
By Dr Bob Parsons OBE, Founder of Hope for Children
I was confronted by a series of events back in 1994. When I retired from the probation service, I was asked by Save the Children to set up a Tracing Programme for orphaned and separated Rwandan children as a result of the war. I refer to notes in my diary:
"We took our tracing programme and our photos to hospitals and prisons, spread the word and our wings as far as possible... On one of my many wanderings throughout Kigali, I came across a woman who was to change my life and shape my future. Her name was Maisie. She was around fifty years old and illiterate. Her smile was gentle and welcoming. Her story was heart wrenching.
Maisie had lost every one of her family members. Her sons, daughter, grandchildren and husband had been wiped out before her eyes. But this woman did not lie down and let her own spirit die. Instead, she took in two orphaned children and gave them the love and security they needed.
Within a week... several more children had been brought to her door. She opened her heart and took them in. Every day, more children would arrive hungry for love and security. She never turned them away... They slept together in one room, huddled under empty grain sacks on the bare floor, a huge hungry litter of orphaned pitiful souls. Yet in her care they had a roof over their heads, a meal a day, the security of a home, and the love of her huge heart that must have been grieving for her own children and grandchildren...
That evening, I appealed to several large UK charities to support her and her huge extended family. They all refused. She was turned down simply because she was not registered as a charity or an organisation... Their strict policies did not give them room to recognise the individuals that need help in an emergency situation or crisis.
Disillusioned, disheartened, I could not get this woman out of my mind. There were so many more like Maisie scattered throughout Rwanda and the world. Who was there to help them in their time of need? With that thought in mind, when my contract was over, and I left Rwanda... I did not forget my experiences. Maisie remained firmly in my thoughts. I could not turn my back on her. Instead I eventually found a small charity that would give her support and funding. We kept in contact. Proudly she built an extension on her home to house all the waifs and strays.
Maisie never left my thoughts. She had planted a seed in me. A seed that was destined to grow. A seed that was going to bring hope to those that needed a helping hand in life."